The return to school for Bedford students has started “differently” this term

(Photograph taken pre-Covid)

Bedford Borough Council’s chief officer for education, SEND and schools, has said that he expects all school children in the Borough to now be back in school.

Speaking to the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday (6 September) he added that Department for Education (DfE) guidance has meant school has started differently this term.

Previous measures, such as mandatory masks and bubble systems, are no longer in place.

Mr Pearson said: “There also isn’t a requirement for councils to still manage a Track and Trace process locally.

“We know is that this made a huge difference over the last 18 months or so because we’ve got the local intelligence.

“If a child in School A tests positive, we can look at who’s on that bus, and where their siblings go to school.

“We can use that local intelligence to try to prevent any further outbreaks. We are going to continue to do this because we feel that’s the right thing to do.

“Only when there have been a specific number of cases in a class or a school, and after a consultation with Public Health can we look at putting back into place mandatory masks, or bubbles or any other mandatory operations in place.”

Mr Pearson said that schools are following the request to refer positive cases back to the council and 13 positive cases had been reported that day (6 September) but, “None of these could have been caught at schools today.

“I don’t think we will have a clear picture of the number and prevalence across schools for probably a couple of weeks.”

Mr Pearson said he was pleased that pushback from councils had led to the DfE to change its guidance on not wearing face coverings on school buses, and the Borough is asking young people to wear them.

The council acknowledges that a number of children and families are very concerned about the return to school.

This could be the usual return to school anxiety which “has probably been amplified” over the last 18 months, or these families could have very vulnerable people at home. Mr Pearson said:

“We certainly will not be taking a punitive approach if children are not back in school straight away. We are not going to start fining.

“Our approach is support, support, support, and to understand why, and what, are the factors preventing children from coming back.”

“We will continue to work with schools, with parents, and with families.”

by John Guinn Local Democracy Reporter
and Bedford Independent’s Paul Hutchinson

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